"A Happy Thought" by Franz Wright.
This poem was published in Best American Poetry 2006. It's probably since been published in a book, but I don't know which one or when....
There are so many things to like about this poem--the title being, it seems at first, in stark contrast to the subject matter/first line. Most of us don't find thinking about our deaths to be happy, but by the end of the poem, Wright has made his case with good humor and that unexpected touch of beauty one always finds in his poems.
His use of line is fantastic as well--the first 5 lines being mostly end-stopped and really emphasizing the iambic pentameter (have no fear of that strange word forever). Then in line six, he suddenly enjambs the last line so the stanza ends "even I can see there's nothing there" which suggests emptiness, bleakness in death. Yet the line continues "to be afraid of" and suddenly the tone has shifted, the poem begins its move toward the "happy thought" of the title.
If you are not won over yet, the last stanza, with its "lonesomer maybe" should start to make you love this poem. But if not that, then the last line, when everything that has come before is transformed into something glorious: "it's dark as I recall, then bright, so bright." Suddenly death has become birth, has become an occasion of beauty.
A Happy Thought
by Franz Wright
Assuming this is the last day of my life
(which might mean it is almost the first),
I’m struck blind but my blindness is bright.
Prepare for what’s known here as death;
have no fear of that strange word forever.
Even I can see there’s nothing there
to be afraid of: having already been
to forever I’m unable to recall
anything that scared me there, or hurt—
what frightened me, apparently, and hurt
was being born. But I got over that
with no hard feelings. Dying, I imagine,
it will be the same deal, lonesomer maybe,
but surely no more shocking or prolonged—
it’s dark as I recall, then bright, so bright.
I sure do love Franz Wright. If you'd like to read more about him, here's a link: